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IDF says Israeli forces relied on ‘highly sensitive and valuable intelligence’ to carry out the ‘complex rescue operation.’
Two Israeli hostages, held captive by the Hamas terrorist group, were rescued in an overnight mission in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
The two hostages, identified as Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, were abducted by Hamas from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak during its large-scale attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023.
Both have been transferred to Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Israel and remain in good health, the IDF said.
IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said that Israeli forces relied on “highly sensitive and valuable intelligence” to carry out the “complex rescue operation,” which had been planned for “some time.”
“We have prepared for this operation for some time, with the necessary preparations made, and waiting for conditions that would allow its implementation,” he added.
Israeli special forces breached a heavily guarded building “in the heart of Rafah” at around 1. 49 a.m. (local time) and found the hostages on the second floor.
“From the moment of the breach and entry into the apartment, Yamam forces shielded Louis and Fernando with their bodies, initiating a daring battle and heavy exchanges of fire at several locations simultaneously, with many terrorists,” Mr. Hagari said.
The Israeli Air Force and Southern Command then launched aerial fire to enable the force’s disengagement and to strike Hamas terrorists in the area, the spokesperson said.
“At this stage, the forces extracted Louis and Fernando from the apartment and evacuated them under fire, accompanied by IDF forces who provided them protection in the Rafah area until they reached a safe zone,” he said.
IDF Committed to Bringing Back Remaining Hostages
Mr. Hagari said that Israeli forces will continue to make “every possible effort” to bring the remaining 134 hostages back home.
“I want to address you this morning: if you are listening to me, know that we are determined to bring you back home,” he added.
Israel began its military offensive in Gaza after Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror attack killed 1,200 people. Hamas also took about 240 hostages, which it used as bargaining chips in negotiations.
The Hamas-run health ministry said the death toll in Gaza has climbed to more than 27,500. A temporary truce in November resulted in the release of more than 100 hostages, but it only lasted for a week.
Mr. Netanyahu said that it is only a “matter of months” before Israel achieves its military goals, that is, to eradicate all of Hamas’s fighting forces in Gaza and destroy the entire underground tunnel network.
“There is no other solution but a complete and final victory,” he told reporters on Feb. 6. “If Hamas will survive in Gaza, it’s only a question of time until the next massacre.”
When it comes to ceasefire talks, Mr. Netanyahu dismissed demands raised by Hamas as “bizarre,” saying that negotiation with the group that rules Gaza is “not going anywhere.”
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has called Israel’s response in Gaza “over the top” and said that he has been “pushing very hard” for a “hostage ceasefire” deal.
President Biden said the proposal would “lead to a sustained pause in the fighting, in the actions taking place in the Gaza Strip.”
“And because I think if we could get the delay for that, the initial delay, I think that we would be able to extend that so that we could increase the prospect that this fighting in Gaza changes,” he said.
Negotiations are continuing, with the governments of Qatar and Egypt acting as mediators.
Bill Pan contributed to this report.